Giving up Certainties

PSA Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1990 (2):333-347 (1990)
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Abstract

People have worried for many years — centuries — about how you perform large changes in your body of beliefs. How does the new evidence lead you to replace a geocentric system of planetary motion by a heliocentric system? How do we decide to abandon the principle of the conservation of mass?The general approach that we will try to defend here is that an assumption, presupposition, framework principle, will be rejected or altered when a large enough number of improbabilities must be accepted on be basis of our experience. If I think that all swans are white, and a student claims to have a counterexample, I will assume that he has made some observational error. I will reject his result, and continue to accept the generalization. When a lot of people claim to have seen counterexamples, I will come around: to continue to accept the generalization would require me to accept too many improbabilities.

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